Historic Vote Paves the Way for Next Round of Key Road and Transit Projects
SMTA’s Top-Priority Bill – HB1515 Passes Senate – Heads to Governor O’Malley for Signature: Today the Maryland State Senate voted 27 – 20 to approve $4.4 billion in new transportation funding, adding roughly $800 million a year to the state’s severely depleted Transportation Trust Fund when fully implemented. The State Department of Transportation has provided this summary of the bill.
What this means:
- 57,000 new jobs for Maryland in construction and related industries
- State funding for major new transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway will now be available, so these projects can move to construction within the next few years
- Dozens of planned road, bridge and intersection improvements – none of which would be possible without this legislation – can now move to construction in the near term (Watkins Mill interchange, Georgia Avenue & Randolph Rd, Brookeville bypass, completing Mid-County Highway, several corridor improvement projects in Prince George’s County, and much more)
This is a MAJOR VICTORY for everyone who is sick of traffic and a major boost for our economy — which is why this legislation enjoyed such strong support from leading business groups and transportation advocates in the State.
“Lock Box” Provision to Protect the Transportation Trust Fund SB829 Passes in State Senate — Moves on to House of Delegates for Final Approval
SMTA’s other top-priority bill for this session won final passage in the Senate in a 45 – 2 vote. Senate Bill 829 would call for a constitutional amendment to require a 3/5 vote by both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly in order to divert any future funding from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to other uses — a repeated problem in Maryland. The constitutional amendment must be approved by voters before it goes into effect but enjoys overwhelming public support. It would help restore the “Trust” in our Transportation Trust Fund and boost support for the new funding plan.
Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.
Sign our On-Line Petition to “Invest Now” in a Better Transportation System!
Today the Maryland General Assembly will vote on the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992.
The House bill (HB 1515) would retain the current 23.5-cent gas tax at current levels, but index it to inflation, and also apply a 1% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, which would increase to 2% by January 2015, with further increases possible depending on federal action on an expected move in Congress to impose an national internet sales tax. If Congress enacts such a tax, Maryland would dedicate a portion of the proceeds to transportation. If not, the wholesale sales tax would be increased accordingly.
When fully implemented, the House package brings in a good portion of the $880 million per year the recent Blue Ribbon Commission found Maryland needs to invest now, to begin making up for decades of under-investment in its crowded and deteriorating transportation infrastructure. It would provide enough funding to meet maintenance needs and build major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — which would not be possible without this legislation.
This is a must-pass bill and now is the time for action. While it contains some language to safeguard dedicated transportation funds from being diverted in the future, the language in this bill probably dos not go far enough, so we are urging the Senate to look at strengthening this provision and continue to call for a separate initiative to create a consititutional “lock-box” on Transportation Trust Fund.
But area business owners and major employers, who have been calling on Maryland officials to boost transportation funding for more than a decade, and frustrated motorists and transit riders wasting time and money in one of our nation’s most congested regions, cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is a good package – an urgently needed one – and will get our economy back on track more effectively than any other action the legislature could even consider taking this year.
Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.
Annapolis, MD — On Monday in the Maryland General Assembly, the House Ways & Means Committee took an historic first step toward addressing Maryland’s long-neglected crisis in transportation funding with passage of the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992.
The Ways & Means Committee voted 15-4 in favor of a package of new revenues similar to recent proposals by key Democratic leaders in Maryland that have won broad support among statewide business leaders and transportation advocates. The House bill (HB 1515) differs from the original package introduced by Governor O’Malley and House and Senate leaders in key respects: It would apply only a 1% sales tax at the wholesale level (instead of 2% in the original plan). That would increase to 2% by January 2015 (instead of 4% by July 2014 in the original) and it retains the current 23.5-cent gas tax at the retail level and indexes it to inflation — a very good idea given that the State’s previous failure to do so is the main reason we are in this mess today.
It adds some new protection against future diversion of transportation funds to other uses, by requiring a supermajority committee vote and requiring repayment from the General Fund within 5 years in all cases (which is better than nothing), but this provision can and should be strengthened (to also require unanimous approval by the Board of Public Works, for example).
Once fully implemented, the total revenues raised would be somewhat less than the roughly $800 million per year the Governor proposed, which is a cause for concern. The actual need is for at least $880 million a year in new revenue, but this still would be by far the largest boost in transportation investment since 1992. It would be enough to allow the State to keep up with future operating and maintenance needs, invest in new capacity on crowded roads, repair failing bridges, and provide urgently needed funds for major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — none of which would be possible without this legislation.
As we have pointed out before — every 10-cent increase in the gas tax translates to about $90 per motorist, per year, yet each of us is literally throwing away an average of more than $2,100 per year due to wasted fuel and other added costs directly attributable to our nations-worst congestion and poor road conditions. This package is a wise investment for taxpayers and for our future economic competitiveness as well. It will almost immediately create over 40,000 new construction jobs in our state, not to mention hundreds of millions more in economic growth and private-sector investment it will foster year after year. It is clearly the right step to take.
Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for better transit options and less traffic.
For more, see recent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.
It has been a long time coming, but perhaps it was worth the wait. Tonight, Maryland’s three top State leaders: Governor Martin O’Malley, State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, and House Speaker Michael Busch put forward a bold new funding package to support Maryland’s decaying transportation network.
It could not have come at a better time.
With tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland’s ailing construction industry literally hanging in the balance, and recent studies once again putting the national capital area at the top of America’s most severely congested communities, we are finally seeing signs that State leaders have come up with a plan that is big enough, bold enough, and smart enough to get the job done.
The legislature will have lots to say in the coming days as this proposal moves through the committees and to the floor, but what was introduced today would do several things:
- Provide over $800 million a year in new transportation funds when fully phased in — enough to fill most of the shortfall identified by the recent Blue Ribbon Commission — and enough to fund the Purple Line, Baltimore’s Red Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, Watkins Mill interchange, improvements to I-270, and hundreds of bridges, roads and transit improvements around the state.
- Put some 44,000 Marylanders back to work in the construction trades over the next 5 years — a huge and desperately-needed boost for our sagging “post-sequester” economy.
- Protect the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids.
- Save Maryland motorists time and money – the cost to the average consumer is far less than the nearly $2,200 each one of us wastes every year due to traffic congestion.
Read more: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/costofinaction.asp
Visit our “Take Action” page now to make your voice heard! Our leaders have listened to local business leaders, civic leaders, transit advocates and motorist who have been crying out for action for a decade or more. Now it’s up to us to show our support. Sign our petition for transportation investment today!
Washington Post columnist Robert Thompson’s column Maryland Drivers Face Many Mini-Challenges draws a pretty stark contrast between the levels of major investment in congestion relief taking place in Virginia compared to Maryland.
Northern Virginia is currently in construction on two multi-billion-dollar “mega projects” — the Metrorail extension to Dulles Airport and adding new lane capacity to their portion of the Capital Beltway (I-495) with additional high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes. Both are being funded with a mix of public and private capital. Additional capacity expansion projects are also either planned or starting construction in the I-95/395 corridor and the I-66 corridor, and construction is nearing completion on the last phase of the Wilson Bridge replacement project.
Maryland is building the ICC. That’s about it right now in terms of major capacity improvements at the regional level. The Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, the much needed widening of I-270 and portions of our side of the Capital Beltway and the American Legion Bridge all are under “study” but those studies keep dragging on and on with no sign of construction in the near term, and no moves yet to ensure that any of them can be funded.
What we are doing, as Thompson’s column makes clear, is a lot of minor resurfacing and repair projects throughout Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. These are important, make no mistake, but don’t confuse this list of “mini” projects with actual investments to relieve the chronic congestion that plagues our region. For that, just look to Virginia.
The Maryland General Assembly just concluded its 2011 session with more disappointing results. Despite a strongly worded plea from the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, urging them to provide $800 million more in dedicated transportation funds, the General Assembly took a big step in the WRONG direction, cutting the already depleted Transportation Trust Fund by another $41 million this year.
This short-sighted action means many more months of continued high unemployment in Maryland’s bleaguered construction industry, more potholes, worsening gridlock, and no hope of moving to construction in the near term on any major transit or road improvements in our area. Current funding levels do not support construction of the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, or even the minimum requirements to keep up with failing bridge and road repairs across the State.
Once again, Maryland legislators have put Transportation at the bottom of their priority list, and we are all paying the price. Please join our mailing list and sign our petition asking Maryland officials to “Invest Now” and address Maryland’s severe transportation funding crisis during the upcoming special session on redistricting. We cannot wait another year.
Last month, the Rockville City Council abruptly reversed itself on the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), asking the State of Maryland to re-route the CCT alignment away from King Farm, one of the major communities it was designed to serve. The State is now in the final stages of identifying it’s “Preferred Local Alternative” for the long-awaited transit line extending from Shady Grove Metro Station north to Clarksburg. Supporters of the CCT are asking the State to continue with current plans and retain the alignment through King Farm, which was designed around the CCT as a “transit-oriented development” (or TOD) from its inception, with the full support of the City. Without the CCT on the alignment that was envisioned in County master plans, the fear is that traffic conditions on surrounding roads, access to jobs and housing for King Farm residents and neighbors, and King Farm property values would all be negatively impacted.
The CCT will add tremendous value to King Farm by providing convenient transit access to destinations up and down the heavily traveled I-270 corridor, and it was a big part of the reason King Farm is there at all. This is what transit-oriented suburban development was supposed to be all about. Rockville would be better served by retaining the current alignment and the more sustainable development patterns that can be achieved through transit-oriented development, in King Farm and elsewhere.